Before the Movie by Liz Purvis

After Marie Howe’s “After the Movie”

My friend David and I are standing outside arguing
about film romances and storylines. He says
he believes there’s such a thing as soul-mates.

I say, I don’t think so. He says, I think it’s normal
to expect the walls to fall down when your person stops loving you.

I hem and haw and twist my mouth up as I say, it’s complicated,
we’re complicated; it’s foolish to think
there’s only one person you could spend the rest of your life with
without killing.

David says, I think we mean different things by the same word.
Maybe it’s not just one. Maybe we stumble
over our days trying to find them all, so we can fit
the jagged pieces of our insides to one another.

I tell David that sounds painful. And what if you don’t meet them? I ask.
Or are you all destined to run into each other, bouncing off cities like pinballs
off the sides of their machines? Does this mean that you must now believe
in faith?

We’re leaning back to rest on the cool brick of the building, taking
turns inhaling tar from the same cigarette, and I find myself repeating
what I said to my last love: love is choice, I used to say to him.

D.H. Laurence says, I prefer my heart to be broken, and when I tell David this he laughs until he’s coughing, says, that’s crazy.
I know, I say. That’s just exactly it.

I tell David how I prefer my heart not broken. How believing
that soul-mates exist seems a kind of permanent brokenness
until one comes along to seal the cracks. He says, that’s one perspective.

Between his fingers, our cigarette has burned all the way up
to the filter. He stubs what’s left out on the brick
with care, dotting the wall with ash. We should probably
get tickets, David says. We should probably go in.
And what I hear David saying is, Let’s stop. You are broken,
too cynical, a dry husk full of biting words and bitter laughter.

Then I think, what does it say of me, that this is what I hear?
And do I love David enough to let him think these things
even when he’s not thinking them? I pull my shoulders to my ears,
a shrug as I turn towards the door, and he follows.

I think about perspective, how it is trying
to remember the world will keep turning whether we want it to or not.

The hall into the theater is cavernous, the vaulted ceiling covered
in mirrored panels staring back at us. We stand, wait
as the ticket counter slowly tears each printed square he’s offered.

Liz PurvisLiz Purvis is an MFA candidate in Poetry at NC State and the Poetry Editor for The Fem Literary Magazine, an inclusive and intersectional magazine. She recently received the E. Nelson James Award for a forthcoming poem in The Sigma Tau Delta Rectangle. Her work has appeared in Deep South Magazine, Damselfly Press, Colonnades, Decades Review, and others. She considers herself a native of the South at large, if it’ll have her, complex and quandarous place though it is, and is fond of hiking, live Gaelic trad, and inordinate amount of July watermelon.


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